Thomas Saenz, J.D.

President & Senior Counsel, MALDEF

In 2009, Thomas A. Saenz returned to MALDEF as President and General Counsel.  He leads MALDEF’s national efforts to promote the civil rights of all Latinos living in the United States.  Previously, as Counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Saenz served on the four-person executive team to the mayor, where he provided legal and policy advice on major initiatives.  During his four-year tenure with the Mayor’s Office, Saenz helped to lead the legislative effort to change the governance of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and served for two years as lead liaison on labor negotiations, with a goal of addressing serious financial challenges in partnership with the City’s workers.

Saenz previously practiced civil rights litigation at MALDEF for 12 years, including four years as Vice President of Litigation.  He was MALDEF’s lead counsel in the successful challenge to California’s anti-immigrant Proposition 187, and he led numerous civil rights cases in the areas of immigrants’ rights, education, employment, and voting rights.  Saenz achieved several victories against ordinances unlawfully restricting the rights of day laborers, served as lead counsel in the 2001 challenge to California’s congressional redistricting, and initiated the employment discrimination lawsuit resulting in a $50 million settlement with Abercrombie and Fitch.  He also served as MALDEF’s lead counsel in two court challenges to Proposition 227, a California English-only education initiative.  Saenz was also the lead drafter of the amicus brief on behalf of Latino organizations supporting affirmative action in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Grutter v. Bollinger.  More recently, in 2016, Saenz argued before the Supreme Court in United States v. Texas, representing intervenors defending Obama Administration deferred action initiatives.